By Henry Stenhouse
On March 15th 2015 over one million people tuned in to watch the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Grand Finals at ESL One Katowice. At the previous year’s event, viewer numbers peaked at 250,000. In just one year, the number of people watching had quadrupled.
But what caused this explosion in viewership? I've collected some of the most entertaining matches and moments from throughout the year. If you're looking for a reason to get into competitive CS, this is it.
New blood shines bright: Luminosity Gaming vs Team SoloMid
The world map of Counterstrike is dominated by European nations: Denmark, Sweden, Poland and France all field teams of considerable renown. After the only North American team fell in the group stages of DreamHack Winter, it was left to a surprise performance by the Brazilian team Luminosity Gaming to keep American hopes alive.
Defeating both EnVyUs and Ninjas in Pyjamas, LG secured a place in the semifinal. Facing the formidable Team SoloMid, they received a crushing 16-5 defeat on Mirage. With the second game taking place on TSM's map of choice, Overpass, the Brazilian dream looked to be over…
Despite a shaky start, LG finally found their form. A combination of patient approaches with blistering flashes of aggression concocted the perfect formula to overcome the Danish defence. Breaking through to map 3, both teams brought their best in a gut wrenching finale. Luminosity may not have left the tournament as champions, but with victories against three of the greatest teams in CS, Brazil has certainly earned its place on the map.
Old dogs die hard: Virtus Pro vs Team SoloMid
Counter-Strike teams are rarely stable. Replacements and restructures come fast and often. In this regard Virtus Pro are an anomaly, maintaining the same lineup since January 2014. VP's roster also holds a high average age, with three out of five players aged over 27. Without any recent major successes to speak of, questions had begun to rise over how long the beloved Polish side would continue to compete.
Enter the Dubai Invitational. Fielding eight of the best teams from across the globe, the event looked to be a tight competition between the two favourites, Fnatic and TSM. VP surpassed all expectations by breezing out of the group stages before scoring a confident 2-1 win over Fnatic. The five map grand final vs TSM proved nothing short of spectacular, with momentum swinging wildly between each side.
Virtus Pro excel in flexibility, seemingly any member of their team cable of both rifling and AWPing. The player to watch throughout the event was VP's Janusz 'Snax' Pogorzelski who exhibited exemplary rifling along with inventive use of smoke grenades to secure rounds.
Fantastic four: EnVyUs vs Mousesports
From the astounding to the amusing, the end of the ESEA Pro League looked to be a disappointing affair after EnVyUs's in-game leader, Vincent 'Happy' Cervoni, received a Denial of Service attack just five rounds in. Incredibly, EnVy decided to persevere with just four players, overwhelming a flustered mousesports to take the match.
A bold French performance and some unconventional casting by Lauren 'pansy' Scott and Alex 'machine' Richardson resulted in one of the most entertaining matches of the year. The duo livened the game with everything from speed and minimalist casting to a spectator fly-through race of the map.
CS:GO may be a team game, but individual moments of exceptional skill (or luck) often provide the best memories. Here are some of the best from this year:
Nikola 'NiKo' Kovač of team mousesports pulls off a series of phenomenal long range deagle kills to claim an ace and economy win against Titan:
Håvard 'Rain' Nygaard recovers from 1 vs 4 to save match point. Surviving on just one point of health, he single handedly keeps Kinguin in the game:
NiP's Patrik 'Forest' Lindberg locks down Dust2's double doors, earning a knife kill and dispatching four of TSM's roster:
Of course no highlight reel for 2015 would be complete without THAT deagle ace by Vincent 'Happy' Schopenhauer:
To discuss the greats of CS:GO without mentioning Fnatic is to do a great disservice to the game. The Swedish team have proven themselves the kings of CS time after time. Securing no less than five $100,000 first place victories this year, Fnatic's reign looks far from over. The highlight? Katowice grand finals, map three:
The North American heroes may have run into trouble in the latter stages of the year but during the summer months they were in the form of their lives. Reaching three back to back finals at ESEA Season 1, ESWC 2015 and DreamHack Valencia, the team fell just short of tournament victories in each case. Despite this, C9 garnered key victories over EnVyUs and VP to show they could compete at the top of CS. Here they are at DreamHack Open Valencia:
After such a deluge of superhuman feats, I feel it's important to remind yourself that these professionals are, at the end of the day, still human. This year's Cluj-Napoca supplied an abnormal number of team kills, collected neatly in this montage by Kevin Tweedale:
Averaging 500,000 players daily, CS:GO sits happily at second place on Steam’s player chart. With increasing prize pools and MLG Colombus hosting the first North American major in 2016, Counter-Strike’s popularity growth shows no signs of slowing. If 2014 was the year CS:GO blossomed, then 2015 has proven to be its tour de force.
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